RS2: South Korea

Korea Bridges Digital Divide

Forbes reported in 2009 that South Korea has been able to increase Internet usage through a dedicated agency focused on bridging the digital divide. The agency, called Korean Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion, or KADO for short, was formed in the late 1990’s in an effort to “help people with disabilities, senior citizens, rural dwellers and low-income families get online” (para. 2). This agency is seen as a template for United States government agencies to follow because the targeted people overlap significantly. The director of KADO, Dr. Yeongi Son, argues that the Obama administration should create a single agency in charge of bridging the digital divide in order to make the process through bureaucracy easier. Currently, the United States has three agencies in charge of bridging the divide: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the US was trying to increase broad band infrastructure at the time, South Korea was concentrating on “IT education and access” (para. 5) through the use of “public IT classes, online and offline” (para. 5). Son states some examples of these initiatives such as the Telecom Relay System which “enables people with hearing and speech impairments to send audio cellphone messages through operators” (para. 8) and IT classes for “the illiterate, foreigners with Korean spouses, and North Korean Refugees” (para. 9). The purpose of these initiatives is to grow the Internet penetration rate in the country which Son hopes will “improve people’s quality of life and stimulate the economy in a kind of virtuous cycle” (para. 11). With these initiatives, the South Korean’s have made strides in bridging the gap between the digital divide, with rural farmers and fisherman increasing the usage of the Internet from 16.2% in 2003 to 33.4% in 2007. KADO has been emphasizing the “utility of fast Web in all of its programs,” (para. 16) teaching people “that they can save money by doing some tasks online” (para. 16) and promoting technology as a way to bridge the generational gap between parents and children. Son hopes that the US will adopt the South Korean way by arguing that “a specialized agency like [KADO] will make it easier for the Obama administration to promote information technology initiatives” (para. 17).

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